A Place for Everything

Slowly the house is beginning to reappear from under the boxes, and it looks more and more like home as our belongings find their places. Our priority was to get the kitchen sorted and to make sure the children were happy in their new rooms. My study also became important as a desk was being delivered on Saturday morning.

However the number of boxes of belongings has been overwhelming, and in an attempt to gain some space so that we could work, the other adult in the house moved some of the boxes to the garage. Now the entrance area looks welcoming, and the battle for space at the top of the stairs is beginning to be won. There is still the conservatory, a living room and a dining room to work on, but there has been definite progress.

Over the weekend we’ve had a few visitors, some appearing with food parcels. That has allowed for some normal eating practices, after a couple of weeks of just grabbing something quick. It was good to sit at the table in the kitchen to eat and chat about our world.

Yesterday I headed to a local church. It was very much a church of its community, where everyone knew those around them. Worship reflected who they were and the journey they are making. I’m wondering if I must give out don’t talk to me vibes or if the people were just a little shy, as I can only say I’m glad I’m a minister and always hope that I might enjoy the anonymity of worship in a strange place. No-one spoke to me until the very end. Instead the person behind me complained to her friend that she wouldn’t be able to see the screen because I had sat in front of her. (I moved over a seat.). As I left the person nearest to me suggested I could sit near her again as she enjoyed my singing. I thanked her and said I was just visiting.

If you were not looking for anonymity perhaps you would behave differently and others would speak to you.

And so to today. For today I am as prepared as I can be to conduct the funeral of a family member. As children we teased and taunted each other, and as adults, while not close, we’ve held a mutual respect for each other.

With this one I’ve been reviewing whether it is wise to do family funerals. I have quite clear reasons why I have been happy to do so, but this one is hurting.

In the meantime it is time to get up and face the day.

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Visiting Narnia

Yesterday I spent much of the day clearing out my wardrobe. Two loads of clothes and shoes have made their way to the recycle bin, and the wardrobe that is to be taken to pieces is now tidy and and extremely clean. Having finished that I moved to the linen cupboard, and today I’ve worked my way through the jewellery.

At times I’ve been transported to other times and places as I’ve remembered the significance of particular items. I’ve been tough on myself and unless it will be worn again or used again, it’s either been recycled or thrown out. So my favourite bed linen given to us when we got married has gone in the bin as it was ripped and worn through.

Perhaps the one exception is my wedding dress and shoes. Can’t imagine I’ll wear them again, but they remain safely packaged in their boxes.

In the midst of the clearing and packing was also an opportunity to draw breath from the leaving of one congregation and preparing myself for all that lies ahead. It has been very difficult to get excited about the future, as you try not to hurt people you love, many of whom have trusted you with their inner most thoughts.

Sunday for all it was hard saying goodbye, was a great day as the congregation turned out to say farewell to their manse family. I’m not sure there was a moment when I wasn’t on the verge of tears. It started with the discovery that there was a surprise lunch, that I only knew about when I was asked to mention it in the church notices. I managed the first two hymns fine, but the words of Isaiah in “I the Lord of sea and sky” set me off. I pulled myself together during the readings, and the sermon was fine as long as I didn’t talk about the congregation, or the part they had played in the kind of minister I had become. “Be Thou my Vision” set me off again, and while I managed most of the prayers of the people, there were end words about differing futures that asked for deep breaths. As all hymns were the result of a congregational poll, we finished with an Easter hymn “Thine be the glory”, so with a lifted spirit I went to pronounce the benediction only to find the sense of finality.

I don’t normally sit down after the Benediction, but on this occasion I needed the 30 seconds to draw breath. The congregation don’t normally stand for the minister leaving, only the elements at communion. So as I went to walk up the aisle to leave, I was overwhelmed as the congregation rose. By the top of the aisle the tears wouldn’t stop, so thank God for the former session clerk who met me with open arms and a large tissue.

Lunch was a happy busy affair, where the husband and the children also discovered that they were loved and would be missed. Kindness was shown in so many ways, and the people we leave behind have left us with so many special memories, not least that they made us all feel like part of a family.

While there has to be a very clear end to allow someone new to be their minister, I hope occasionally we will know how life continues for them.

So what lies ahead? Perhaps unfortunately a family funeral has thrown itself into the midst of more packing, a move before the weekend, settling in, sorting, and then finally a clean for the old manse and handing the keys back before an induction. Then it’s a steep learning curve as I learn names, history traditions and expectations. I’m practising my best smiles ( at least when I’m not weeping).

And I am a little excited, and looking forward to the world beyond my wardrobe.

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Left the building

After a few weeks of slightly quieter activity on the church website, yesterday there was a surge in activity and interest. Looking to see where the hits were coming from, it would seem that some were being directed from the Presbytery website. Clicking through to see why, I discovered that my current charge is being advertised as vacant.

Now I know that my congregation bid me farewell, and I made appropriate reply in recent days, but I’ve not finished yet. I have one service left to do, and even following that I am taking holidays so that I might pack and move. The potential vacancy may not happen for at least another fortnight.

I’m smiling as I write because while I am tired, not sleeping and concerned that I am more grey than at the beginning of a year, I am delighted for them that people are interested.

At my last Kirk Session meeting some had expressed concern that they might have to wait awhile for people to be interested. The activity yesterday suggests that in much the same way that a presbytery speech prompted others to encourage me to apply the double figure number of years ago, so what the elder said the other night has encouraged others to pass on the message that this might be where you would want to be.

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Expanding Time

How many activities can reasonably be accomplished in 5 hours?

I’m hoping that I’ll manage to write a letter, an email, a funeral, tonight’s farewell speech for Presbytery and perhaps something for the liturgical group I’m part of. Hopefully I can get that done in an hour…

Then I’ve three visits I want to make before lunch, and posting the letter.

In amongst all of that I need to think about tea and a new jumper and track suit bottoms for a child. A little more tidying.

Finally having collected children from school, it’s time for a quick tea before heading to Presbytery and discovering what the elder has to say about my being their minister.

At least it’s a short night for me at Presbytery because once I say goodbye, I can go.

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Honest picture

Catching up with news on Facebook today, I noticed that this blog article had been posted.

A Growing Church is a Dying Church

I thought it was interesting.

I was just going to leave my statement as that, but then the other adult in the house questioned me about why I thought it was interesting. So…

I don’t disagree with the theology of what is said, nor do I disagree with the sentiment that sometimes ministers are called on the basis that they will be the saviour of a congregation. In reality only Christ can be Saviour, and that happens when a congregation grasps faith for themselves, and steps out into the unknown and uncertain.

What I thought was interesting was the writer’s desire to cast the person bringing change as a woman, and while I suspect that he meant that use to be inclusive I feel that it further adds to the tension of what it means to be a woman in ministry. In some ways I find the whole “woman” thing a bit of a non issue.

I grew up in a predominantly female house, my parents encouraged us all to do the best we could and follow our hearts in where our gifts lay. For my sisters that has meant into art and care of other people of all ages, for my brother it has meant bus driving, while for me that has been responding to a call to ministry. I don’t think I am called to be a minister because I am a woman, but instead because of the gifts hidden within me.

Part of the reason I’m more than happy to robe for worship is that for me the identity of clothing and personal appearance is lost in playing the part for others.

In identifying the ambassador of change as a woman in this blog article, rather than being inclusive, I find myself feeling that the stereotype of who brings changes is reinforced. In reality no matter what gender we are, as we engage with a new congregation we will bring something different, sometimes even without realising that we are doing so.

I remember after the first few months of being in my present charge there were those who kept saying I had changed worship. Now I’m not daft – I know at first it is best to try and do what is familiar until people begin to get used to the change if person. At a Worship Team meeting we tried to iron out what the issues were, and eventually it came down to the person doing the worship had changed as they still sang the same number of hymns, there were prayers in the same place, and at that stage we hadn’t got as far as responses.

So while I welcome the inclusivity intended in the article, I also want to say that calling a minister of any gender means that life after they arrive will be different. It will be different because God will use the gifts and talents placed in them to stir the Holy Spirit amongst His people. Being a woman doesn’t make you any less traditional than a man, because tradition and change come in all kinds of guises.

 

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Disturbed Reading

Day 6 of the manse tidy up finally saw the study tidy. Three black bags of rubbish, five bags of paper recycling and two bags of confidential waste all made there way out into the hall, and some is already at the tip.

The tidying has allowed time for thinking, and allowed me to return in my thoughts to a book that I had been reading through Lent an Easter and then almost to Pentecost. It has taken me a while to process what I really thought about the book, and has interested me how disturbed I have felt by it.

At Christmas I was given “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ” by Jose Saramago. It’s a story that attempts to fill in some of the gaps that don’t seem important in the Gospel. So the intervening years between Jesus’s teenage conversations in the temple and his baptism by John in his late 20s/early 30s are filled in. His father Joseph dies a gruesome death. Jesus’s time in the wilderness is spent with “Pastor” who later turns out to be the devil. Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene was very definitely sexual, and she is cast as an older woman of experience.

In essence none of these details were offensive. A peruse of books on lost Scriptures would suggest that there was a different relationship between Jesus and Mary than traditional Christianity encounters in the Gospels of what we read. The history of the time would suggest that men may well have met gruesome deaths. In some ways what the story seems to demonstrate is the authors ability to have found some of the details that skirt the written texts we are used to encountering and expound them.

For me, it was the kind of book where you had to read a few pages and then put it down and think, try and work through what made you uncomfortable. Lying in those discomforts are the notion that “Pastor” turned out to be the devil, and that the devil/ satanic forces/ evil cannot exist without a knowledge of God/good.

Once I can read more than an OK magazine again I think there is a good opportunity to do some real exploration of the concept of good without evil. Are good and evil contrasts like light and dark that can only be explored in relationship? Or can we acknowledge them in isolation?

As a parent I know that they are relational as how else can a child be allowed to explore one concept if they do not know they other. Yet within my acknowledgement of God, I find that notion of a relationship with evil/bad/ devil very difficult.

I find it fascinating that this book has bothered me so much. Having read “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” and been able to view it as a good exploration of the divinity and humanity of Christ, it is odd not to be able just to see Saramago’s book as just another story.

So now back to the packing to do more pondering. I’ve made it out of the study at last and completed a child’s bedroom. Hopefully all the important papers are now filed. Child number one’s room is in the hands of his father, while we’re part way through the dining room and family room. So that leaves a spare room (more confidential papers and books to sort through although fortunately 14 years of worship is already filed) and the real front room.

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